A Beginner's Guide to Record-Keeping for Small Businesses

Tips For Record-Keeping For Small Business Success.


To put it simply, record-keeping is maintaining accurate records and documenting events or transactions in an accounting system. It is imperative for your firm to keep accurate records of all financial activities, including source papers and vouchers, accounting schedules and records, bank statements, and any other related transactions. Every business owner is cognizant of the fact that one of the most crucial and time-consuming duties of managing a company is maintaining financial records and receipts.

By using Inkle Books accounting software, you can make sure that no records are overlooked by assisting with the precise recording of transactions and the keeping of records that support the documentation of financial transactions, rules, decisions, and internal controls. 

Not only does efficient record-keeping simplify tax filing, but it also aids in monitoring your spending and, should it be necessary, providing documentation for audits or legal proceedings. Additionally, firms are required by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to maintain financial records and to produce them upon request.

This guide will help walk you through the time-consuming process of record-keeping if you are unclear about which records to maintain and for how long. For further assistance, you can get support from our smart software Inkle books, which excels at systematically classifying transactions and makes record keeping simple.  This blog provides information on handling and filing financial records for small businesses.

This is why Record-Keeping is Important for Small Businesses

Long-term success for small business owners depends on their ability to manage their finances. Of all the financial practices, record-keeping is one that is essential and should not be disregarded. Any successful organisation relies heavily on accurate and consistent record-keeping because it offers crucial insights, eases compliance, supports decision-making, and promotes growth. 

Organised Financial Management

Maintaining accurate and well-organised records enables small business owners to monitor all financial operations effectively. Owners who keep detailed records are able to have a clear picture of their financial situation, which makes it easier for them to spot trends, strengths, and areas with a room for improvement.

For small firms, putting Inkle accounting software into practice can change everything. Our software application offers real-time financial data insights, automates tedious procedures, and streamlines the record-keeping process. 

Ease in Tax Compliance

Small business owners may find tax season intimidating, but keeping thorough records helps to ease the process. Businesses can simply report income, spending, and deductions by keeping precise financial records, which reduces the possibility of errors or audits.

With the aid of our Inkle tax software, you may safely and securely maintain all documents in the document vault. To hold all tax-related paperwork, financial statements, and receipts, it creates a new file or folder for each. By doing this, you can be sure you'll have all you need during tax season, and it will be simpler to produce any supporting evidence that the authorities may ask for.

Informed Decision-Making

When making important decisions, small business owners can benefit significantly from having access to comprehensive financial records. Financial records provide the essential information to evaluate the feasibility and possible effects of business actions such as hiring more employees, investing in new machinery, or growing the company.

Showcasing Business Sustainability to Lenders and Investors

For small firms looking to raise capital from investors or obtain loans from financial institutions, having accurate financial records is essential. It proves your company is financially sound, well-run, and worth the investment.

Complying with Regulatory Standards

Regulations pertaining to labour, taxes, and industry-specific matters are specific rules that small firms have to follow. By ensuring that your company complies with these laws and regulations, accurate record-keeping lowers the possibility of penalties and other legal repercussions.

Monitoring Accounts Receivable and Accounts Payable 

Efficient management of cash flow requires keeping complete records of accounts payable and accounts receivable. Your financial stability may be jeopardised by late payments from clients or by neglecting to pay bills.

Safeguarding Against Frauds and Errors

Maintaining accurate records serves as a defence against mistakes and fraudulent activity. Small business owners can identify irregularities and questionable activities early on by routinely balancing their finances.

What Records Do You Absolutely Need To Maintain

The kind of records that a corporation keeps vary depending on the type of industry it operates in. Still, in nearly all cases, the following records are required to be mandatorily kept: 

Business Formation Documents

The EIN, annual meeting minutes, bylaws or operating agreement, articles of incorporation/certificate of formation, licences or permissions, and all modifications to those documents should all be kept in one location, ideally a corporate record book.

Client Records

Orders, bills, payment histories, project schedules, finished deliverables, letters, and meeting minutes ought to all be kept in a customer relationship management (CRM) system. If you're not quite ready to commit to a CRM, keep your client files on Dropbox®, Google Drive, Microsoft One Drive®, or any other cloud file hosting service. There is software that is appropriate for your size and type of business, should you feel prepared to invest.

Contracts And Agreements

A copy of the lease, contractor agreement, and vendor contract should be kept in a location that is convenient for you to access. These days, it's rather typical to sign agreements using e-signatures, so you'll receive an email with a copy of the final signed copy. Organising your electronic contracts in a specific folder in Google Drive or Outlook is a smart idea. You should also download the PDF version and store it on your external drive or cloud.

Business Financials 

You don't need to print and store bank statements because they are readily available online. However, you should maintain a filing system for your checks, account opening forms, loan documents, and the folder of materials the bank gives you at account opening.

Tax Records

Organise all of your supporting documentation and returns by the year. For any hard copy receipts, set up a basic filing system. Electronically transferred papers should be saved on an external hard drive or on the cloud. Spreadsheet-based manual tracking can quickly spiral out of control if you're not careful.

Record-Keeping Rules for Startups

  • Any financial transaction you report on your tax returns, including deductions and costs, needs to be supported by official documentation such as invoices, bank statements, receipts, and other paperwork. Thus, be sure to keep this documentation safe.
  • Store electronic records to cut down on paperwork. Always remember to create several backups of your digital files.
  • A separate business bank account and credit cards are advised in order to keep business expenses apart from personal ones and to facilitate more efficient and error-free record-keeping.
  • Maintaining certain records for a while is a good idea, even if you are not using them for tax filing.

How Long Should the Tax Records be Kept?

Records and receipts related to business taxes should ideally be kept for three years. However, some documents need to be kept on file for a longer period of time.

3 years is the minimum amount of time you have to stick to. However, depending on how many other documents you need to maintain, you can take a call to keep these records for a longer time.  

As previously stated, the IRS recommends that you retain your tax documents for three years or until the income or tax benefits claimed on your returns are confirmed. This means you have three years from the date you submitted your return or the tax return's due date, whichever is early.

Due to the Period of Limitations, three years is the suggested duration. You have a chance to make changes to your tax returns during this time and are eligible for an audit by the IRS. Thereafter, the IRS will no longer be able to audit you. As a result, you are free to discard the returns and the supporting paperwork.

Can I choose to Discard Records Before Time?

The IRS mandates that you preserve all records pertaining to your tax expenses and records; you can choose not to maintain receipts if:

  • Less than $75 is spent on meals or transportation associated with business operations.
  • There are no receipts available, and the cost is exclusively transportation-related.
  • With a per diem allowance, you submit your housing and meal expenses under an accountable plan.

If you're still unsure about how long to hold onto these receipts, bear in mind that any expense that is less than $75 may be called into question in the event of an audit or legal dispute. Therefore, it is a good idea to keep track of all of your receipts.

If you don’t have a receipt, you can provide the expended amount, details about when and where it was spent, and the purpose of the expense. 

Regarding expenses that include many individuals, the IRS may request information on the number of attendees, the purpose of the meeting, and the expenses. 

You may control expenses and reduce the stress of keeping records by using professional accounting services like Inkle Books. It's essential to review the IRS guidelines, as maintaining records for small business spending can be challenging.

Exceptions to the 3-Year Rule

There are certain receipts and records that should be maintained for more than three years:

  • Records pertaining to employee taxes must be retained for a minimum of four years following the payroll tax deadline or the date of payment.
  • You have up to six years to preserve evidence if the amount of income you failed to report on your tax return exceeds 25% of gross income.
  • Records pertaining to the cost of worthless securities or bad debt must be preserved for seven years.
  • The IRS, with no statute of limitations, can audit you at any time if you haven't submitted tax returns or have committed fraud.
  • Property records and deductions, such as depreciation, profit from sales, gain from investments, etc., must be supported by evidence that is preserved beyond three years.


In summary, it is evident that record-keeping is essential to small enterprises' success in the fiercely competitive marketplace. Maintaining accurate financial records is a task. However, using accounting software for bookkeeping services like Inkle Books can significantly reduce stress and yield several advantages. Ensure all documents have served their intended purpose before discarding them, not just with the IRS but also with other parties such as creditors, attorneys, insurance providers, etc.

The rule to remember is to "preserve it" when in doubt. Although it may seem like you are hoarding, you will certainly be safeguarded tax-wise.

Digitising financial records is the simplest way to maintain them.

Digital documentation is accepted by the IRS as long as it demonstrates your finances in detail. Documents that are copies of the original and can be printed to create a legitimate document can be submitted digitally.

It is advisable to scan all of your essential receipts and digitise your documents in order to guard against them getting lost, destroyed, or stolen. You may safely log all of your papers and store them for the future with the aid of our online application, Inkle Tax - Document Vault.

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